So, I’m sat at home with a terrible cold, I’m talking the works! I know most females look at men that stress the extremities of Man Flu but for real, it’s serious business! The constant sneezing, itchy throat, fatigue – it’s flashing up bad memories as I think about it even.
Mum calls. I find that since Noah’s arrival, she calls non stop – her priorities are well in place now! Her Grandson is HERE! and that’s what matters. In fact, the church have predicted six children, I’m like “who is having SIX kids? And where will the village be when it’s time to pay for the day to day.” Mum does her usual “how is my boy?” “is he eating well?” etc. She notices that I sound rough, I tell her about my cold. How it came about at the wrong time and I don’t want Noah to catch it. Mum then replies in the only way she knows how, “Do you want me to make some pepper soup?”
Roughly a month ago, mum and I went through the roughest mother-son periods of our life. We argued till our throats were sore. She angered me in ways that had my eyes welling up, and for the first time I questioned my identity. I felt like I had lived a lie.
The birth of a child is (in some ways,) a fresh start. Noah was that reason to “start again and get it right,” Noah is the “neutral” to the family arguments, this new arrival – is a “blessing” from above. I can only speak for myself in this situation, Noah highlighted the screws that were not in place. The first 4 weeks was tough because various cultural processes were discussed with me and I was defiant with all of them. The defiance wasn’t due to my stubbornness or an “I know what’s best” attitude. It was quite simple from my perspective – how could I ever embrace something that wasn’t made out to be important? There were definitely things that I was aware of in my culture, but I did not appreciate the fact that Noah’s parents were not in control of certain decisions, that we pretty much had no say. This wasn’t defiance, this was my mother’s culture and my mixed culture – knocking heads. I say mixed because though I was born in Nigeria, the majority of my upbringing was in Britain, and with that, comes its own traits. The worst thing for any black individual raised within a white country, is to be termed a “coconut” by their own. Yes, I heard the pep talk en route to Britain “You are not a White boy” etc. but colour never really registered until a later stage in my life, and that was something I found out in my own way, not necessarily through being “educated” by family. So two days after Noah’s arrival, I had family members left right and centre approaching me with things, things I needed to do by certain dates, Family members that had to be at the house for 30 or so days, how we needed to treat his belly button with a specific medicine that all Africans use, and I’m “apparently” being difficult because of one simple word, “why?”.
“Why would you need to be around for 30 days when we have planned a schedule already?”
“Why use this for his belly button when we have been told to leave it for seven days?”
“Urmm.. Why do we have to have a dedication for him? What is it for exactly?”
“Why did you not push me to speak more Yoruba? I didn’t find it funny when you guys laughed at me”
The more I ”why’d,” the whiter I became, or was to blame for not asking. It got to a point that she sighed in disappointment because of the constant challenging but I wanted her to understand that things just can’t be dropped on me for cultures sake, and I must comply. It became more and more evident, that there was a void in my upbringing. Mum had effectively hit a brick wall. A wall that could have been prevented if the knowledge was introduced from young otherwise – it’s all alien to me. And re me, what happens when I’m not shown how to do something – I learn, or find solutions. I live in a time where everything is at a click of a button, my phone alone allows me to organise my life and connect with friends – without having to even talk to them. Might seem crazy to say, but google was one hell of a parent.
As comical as this post may come across, for me – it’s deeply concerning. I know my mother would purposely not withhold information about my culture from me, hell! She would love for me to embrace being a Nigerian fully and I love every positive part of my culture however, the parent’s excuse of “you never asked, ” or “I don’t know” must stop – because at x age, I wouldn’t even know what questions to ask. It’s sort of like the adverts you watch continuously on TV, or songs you hear on the radio, these constant reminders that make you sick to death of hearing/ seeing but either way, it’s engrained in your head. Crazy to think that I will never forget the McDonald’s theme whistle, but I hardly know how to make traditional African dishes. These are things we lose, things that should be drummed in the head so much that we predict when it’s coming around. Now, when Noah is having trouble passing wind/pooing, Mum has a cultural approach to tend to the matter because back in mum’s day, there were no internet or baby apps, I say google to her and she would fob it off as nonsense “That’s not how it’s done in Africa”. It’s quite sad that I’m fast to check google but am apprehensive about my mother’s suggestions. I have found myself googling certain ingredients of something that has she recommended and finding that some elements were chemically produced, forums saying “DON’T GIVE TO YOUR BABY”, but mum wouldn’t want to hurt Noah, she knows what she’s saying, right? Right!!? What if he reacts badly to it? And then I’d call her and stupidly say “But I checked on Google and…” soon to be cut off with “What does google know? Google is not from Africa!” and on goes this battle of cultures.
Mum asked if I wanted Pepper soup. I looked at the 4 Beechams cold/flu tablets taken through the day that seemed to make no difference to the runny nose and headache. Though I declined due to the distance she would have to go to deliver it to me, I kindly asked the missus if she could make it for me and she did. Pepper soup is very much an African delicacy, that warms every part of my body, I asked for 3 scotch bonnets to be added to the onions, chicken, plum tomatoes and her additional touches of seasoning. I had two bowls of this and post sweating & a flaming tongue, hours later, I was feeling much better.
I can’t make the same mistakes as my parents. My reasoning behind pushing mum with the “why’s” is so that I can inform him as he grows, so that I can break this cycle. If I become that dad that tells the tale about the ape, the snake and lion, or Biafra, or Nelson Mandela – to a stage that he’s like “Yes dad, I know – Madiba! gosh” then so be it, at least he learnt that from me – Not google.